"That's what cost them this season"; ex-Celtic man Gary Caldwell offers take on Lennon

By Euan Davidson

January 21, 2021

Sky pundits are hardly popular at Celtic just now, yet former Bhoys defender Gary Caldwell has spoken out on the broadcaster.

Caldwell, who spent a fruitful 4 years at Celtic, had his say on the club’s current predicament. The former Clydesdale Bank Player of the Year, SFWA Footballer of the Year and twice league champion knows a thing or two, after all.

While he had his fair share of critics, Caldwell played a substantial role for the Bhoys. Around this time last year, ‘Heid’ made unpopular comments about Lennon’s team, which look prescient in hindsight.

On Sky Sports News, the former defender said:

“It’s proven to be a poor start to the month when they’ve really had to hit the ground running, be really strong, try and win games and put pressure on Rangers.

It seems it’s one disaster after another. They can’t seem to get any consistency in their performance and results, to try and close that gap on Rangers.

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“[Neil Lennon] is under a lot of pressure as any manager would be if you’re not winning football matches. He understands at Celtic, more than anyone, that you have to win games as manager of that club.”

Former Celtic defender Gary Caldwell / (Photo by CLAUS FISKER/AFP via Getty Images)

Celtic have to “look deeper”, says Gary Caldwell

Caldwell, like many Celtic supporters, claimed that the club’s problems lie deeper than Lennon. But his comments were quite strange.

He said:

“What the club have to do is look deeper than that. Has recruitment been right? Is the style of play right? Everyone behind the scenes pulling in the right direction?

“To me there’s been an obsession with 10-in-a-row that’s forced Celtic to forget the processes that allow them to win leagues and win cups. That’s what cost them this season.

“As a football club you have to look at the bigger picture. Decide whether the manager is aligning to what the club’s values and beliefs are, where the club is going. If Celtic believe Neil Lennon is that man, they’ll continue to go with him.

“If they don’t believe that, that’s why it should change. I don’t think you should change the manager purely based on results on the pitch.

“Going to Dubai is not the issue. That is a great team bonding exercise. But the timing of it in the middle of a pandemic with everything else going on, it was wrong. The club have to hold their hands up for that, which they have done a little bit. Results after that have not been good either, which increases the pressure.”

Gary Caldwell’s comments: a close reading

For the record, I’ve no beef with Gary Caldwell. I think he was an undervalued Celtic player, and we could certainly use his ilk right now.

However, many would argue that you should change the manager if results on the pitch aren’t good enough. That’s the function of a football manager; to win games, as Caldwell says. Nobody expects constant wins, but to say Lennon has underperformed as Celtic boss this season would be an understatement.

Obviously, Caldwell has been scarred by a recent unsuccessful spell at Partick Thistle (Daily Record). However, the former Sky Bet League One Manager of the Year must be aware of the expectations of football management.

Credit is due for his take on Celtic’s “obsession” with 10IAR. For the record, I don’t know to quantify that in words, but it’s clear that the club have approached this season differently to previous campaigns.

Still, these comments are confusing. Describing Dubai as “not the issue” then saying it was wrong is a little contradictory. Surely it is “the issue” if it was also a bad thing to have done?

And surely recruitment, style of play etc are in large part down to the ethos of the manager? To be honest, it’s not entirely clear what the club at large’s ethos is, so Caldwell is right to question that. But some of his comments sounded like a half-hearted defence of Lennon.

File under: Not Sure, Really.